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Opinions of Friday, 10 July 2009

Columnist: Oluniyi David Ajao

President Obama in Ghana. Why not Nigeria?

From the moment the US government released information that President Obama was visiting Ghana between 10th and 11th July 2009, there have been a lot of grumbling from neighbouring Nigeria. Now that the US President is just a few days away, the grumbling is getting even louder with Senator Jubril Aminu (Chairman of the Foreign Affairs committee, The Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria) adding his voice. The BBC World Service’s Network Africa quotes him as saying President Obama could have made his point about Nigeria’s democracy in Nigeria’s capital city Abuja if indeed Ghana’s better democracy was his reason for choosing to visit Ghana.

Some Nigerians hold the view that Nigeria deserves to be the first sub-Saharan African country Obama visits as President. Such views are anchored on the illusion that Nigeria is presently Africa’s super-power. A Nigerian interviewed by the BBC World Service consoled himself by saying: “When it’s time to visit a super-power, he will… Now is the time to visit a sub-power and that’s why he is visiting a sub-power”. :) The cheek of it!

I hold a different view from those complaining:

1. I do not see why any one would ask why President Obama is visiting Ghana and not Nigeria. The question should be “Why not Ghana?” President Obama in an interview with AllAfrica.com clearly stated that Ghana’s democratic credentials was partly responsible for his choice. By inference, Nigeria obviously does not qualify. I believe the political leadership in Nigeria should take a cue and reform the election and governance processes in Nigeria instead of crying over spilled milk. If President Obama had started with Nigeria, wouldn’t that have been a tacit endorsement of “kleptocracy”?

2. Oil export: Oil is strategic to the US economy. Some believe Nigeria being a major exporter of oil to the USA, should be considered above Ghana. Last time I checked, Angola had become the largest exporter of oil from sub-saharan Africa. That implies that Angola can easily take over from Nigeria with the US oil business.

3. Economy: Nigeria’s economy is a major one in Africa, but it is not the largest. If the size of economy was what mattered most, South Africa should be making the loudest noise but I have not heard a complaint from South Africa.

3b. “Super power”: I ask myself, “What super power?” I grew up hearing a certain cliché about Nigeria being “the giant of Africa”. I believe that was in the past. If there was any African super power, it would be South Africa. Aside it large economy, military might, technology and better general living conditions, South Africa is globally recognised as one of the emerging countries in the same league as Brazil, Mexico, India and China.

4. African support: Some one interviewed by the BBC about this issue made a point about the amount of moral support from Nigerians during the American elections in 2008. This is mainly an emotional point. If any country would qualify using this criteria, it would Kenya! The world media descended on Kenya during the US Presidential elections and were there to cover the jubilation when Obama was declared winner since Barack Obama’s father was Kenyan.

The bottom line is simple: The President of the United States is at liberty to decide which countries to visit or not to visit, and in what order he visits them. Most sub-saharan African countries are in the same league of under-development & corruption anyway, and if I were President Obama, I might as well throw a dice to decide which of them to visit first. Who knows, Zimbabwe might just get lucky! :)

The author Oluniyi David Ajao blogs at www.davidajao.com